I've just gotten an attractive job offer. I've been doing a lot of reading about negotiations, here on Stack Exchange and elsewhere. The general gist seems to be that it's silly to leave money on the table when you're in a strong bargaining position. The thing is, I don't care about money nearly as much as I do about vacation time. I would start at the standard (in the US...) 10 days per year, which seems like so little. I'd even be willing to take less money in exchange for more time off.

  • Is number of vacation days negotiable?
  • What's my best strategy to get more time? What's the most I could reasonably ask for?

  • What's a rough relationship between dollars and days than I can use to calibrate my requests? Or is there one at all?

  • Do you think it would help if I mention my infirm grandfather who lives alone and who I'd like to be able to visit more often?
    – Yozarian22
    Commented Oct 16, 2012 at 18:04
  • That means that you need a flexible work schedule. For example 4x10 or 9x9. Commented Oct 16, 2012 at 21:46

5 Answers 5


It's certainly worth discussing. How much flexibility the hiring manager has to negotiate vacation days really depends on the company. Larger companies are more likely to have rules about the maximum number of vacation days any employee can accrue in a year (and/or how many can be carried over from one calendar year to another).

In general, figure that there are roughly 200 business days per year. That means that 1 vacation day is worth roughly 1/200 (0.5%) of your annual salary. That's obviously a rough estimate but it's in the right ballpark to begin negotiations.

As far as how to negotiate extra vacation time goes, you would approach it the same way you would approach salary negotiations. If the company gives you an offer, you can counter that the salary is acceptable but that you need an extra week or an extra two weeks of vacation. Negotiating over fringe benefits is basically the same same as negotiating over salary.


One thing to consider, which may or may not be important to you, is the effect of your negotiation on changed vacation policies within a company. I have a colleague who negotiated 3 weeks of vacation instead of 2. It was all well and good, but in a year, there was a company-wide increase in vacation so everybody got 3 weeks. In his case, the vacation time was not increased.

Practically speaking, this shouldn't matter - he wanted 3 weeks and got 3 weeks. But I wonder if he now wishes he had negotiated his salary. That being said, I suppose the same situation can happen regarding salary increases.

I guess the overall takeaway is to negotiate for as much as possible. They won't take away your offer for doing so if they really want to hire you.

  • 9
    That's a good point. It would be advisable to negotiate 5 days of additional holiday, over and above the number specified in the employee handbook (10 days at the time of signing the contract) rather than 15 days of holiday.
    – Mark Booth
    Commented Oct 17, 2012 at 15:58
  • The thing is: Having more vacation than you colleagues is easily visible to them, while having a higher salary typically is not. Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 12:40

The output of your work is worth more than what the company pays you. That is how a company stays in business, by outputting higher value than the cost of production. So by this rationale, the real cost for the company during your vacation, when you're not producing anything, is not proportional to your salary. From the company's bottom line perspective, one extra vacation day is not equivalent with 1/200 of your annual salary, it's more.

That said, there is no general value for "reasonable" here. The company will certainly think it unreasonable if you ask for significantly more than is the local industry norm where you are. And again, since not having your employees around is a huge inconvenience for the company, be prepared to pay a premium for it. Be also prepared to commit to taking any extra days you negotiate during a fixed period of the year (like 3 days extra, but you must plan them in July).

Then finally be prepared for the company being inflexible in this matter, regardless of salary. Especially larger organization tend to want to keep remuneration packages fairly homogenous across peer-groups. This to avoid the "why is he getting X when I'm only getting Y..." discussions.

  • Everything is negotiable, but to what extent differs greatly between companies, regions and countries
  • Try to be as flexible as possible on your end. For instance, commit to taking some of your days during only certain periods.
  • The relationship between dollars and vacation days depends on the value of your output and the opportunity-cost for the company of not having you available for periods of time. If your work is such that it can be predicted and planned long ahead of time and your responsibilities can be shouldered temporarily by someone else in your absence, then it's less expensive to have you leave.

Some companies will negotiate a higher rate of accruing vacation days for a new employee that is not in a low level position. They are aware that an employee will move from 10 to 15 to 20 days per year. They may be willing to bump you to a higher level because they know you were earning more vacation at your previous employer. They are very unlikely to move you above their max rate. Ask them when is it normal to be moved to the high vacation level.

Keep in mind that they are trying to fit your salary, taxes, insurance, and other benefits plus their overhead and profits within the maximum rate they can charge customers. You might be forced to lower your hourly pay rate to keep your billing rate in a range to allow them to make a profit.

Another possibility is that some companies allow you to purchase additional vacation days. They pull $x from each paycheck throughout the year. This lets you purchase 5 or 10 additional days.

Others will allow you to take Leave Without Pay (LWOP). You will have to investigate how they handle benefits during a pay period where you are on LWOP for a significant amount of time.

  • 1
    If the benefits include some kind of pension plan which is tied to the higher pay, it is definitely a good thing to consider higher pay if you have the chance to buy extra days off. Over time the higher pay this will ensure that you have a much better pension fund in the end. In Europe pay is the bottom line as far as pensions go. I don't know how this is done in the USA.
    – Onno
    Commented Oct 16, 2012 at 20:14

Start by finding out if you can take unpaid days off, and make sure that your manager will be okay with you taking a reasonable number of additional days. If yes to both, you're good shape -- you can take the time if you want to, and if you don't you'll get paid for it right away. That's surely better than accruing time off that you're not using and getting paid for it only if/when you leave.

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